Broth: Devil or Angel?

(After a website breakdown of collosal proportions, I am reconstructing this article with photos. Please stay tuned!)

We didn’t have meat every day growing up, but we did always save all of the bones (even off the plates, which I now know freaks some people put) and I’d stew them up until they were white. We’d cool the boiled bones and crack them open to eat the marrow. I had never roasted bones before, always using leftovers where the meat is already cooked.I didn’t learn to remove the foamy stuff until a few years ago! The idea of a technique and a recipe for broth was news to me until I got to the broth lesson in my Real Food Nutrition course.

Bone broth is a complete food according to traditions I know, helpful for people recovering from illness, or to sustain them when ill. Also used is slippery elm bark, a well-tolerated nutritive for babies, seniors and people who can’t eat solids.

As a flaky vegan, I just bought 5lbs of beef bones from my local butcher. It’s on my kitchen table in an immoral plastic bag. I asked for paper but he was just going to take it out of the bag he used and throw it away. Rather than bury it in lye in the back yard, I am going to try to do my assignment and shock the hell out of my flesh eating child. I’ll have to add tofu for my youngest. With any luck, my teenager is NOT vegan today.

I’ve eaten many chicken broths in my time owing to my mixed Jewish-Christian background, and probably some beef broth with Pho. No telling if it was real, though.

For my first ever deliberate beef broth, I bought the aforementioned big regrettably plastic bag from my local meat market. They just don't get it that I don't want to use up a plastic bag there, sadly. They very nicely offer to throw away the bag and put my purchase in paper, but that is SO not the point. Anyhow, a big bag cost $3.50.

I went to the regular grocery store and struggled for a good half hour to balance my needs for frugality, local and organic status. Plus I needed a rutabega because I adore these. I ended up with local non organic potatos in paper, a big bag of local carrots in plastic and a big huge net bag of local red onions. So all in all I spent less than $10 on what I hoped would make several meals.

I laid the bones out on a roasting pan when I got home. I was pretty grossed out by the meat-plastic-blood-thing to be frank. The roasting was easy and smelled fine.

I decided to make the broth in my oft abandonned crock pot. I added ageing veggies from my fridge, my housemates fridge and the garden: leeks, squash, carrots, garlic sprouts and so forth. I set the pot to maximum time = 20 hours!

By late afternoon the next day, I had a pretty awesome meal almost done in there. I transferred the bones to cool in a bowl, and the chunks of meat and veggie chunks into my cast iron kettle on the stove. I couldn't bear to throw the chunks of veggies out, even though I later discovered they had become flavourless.

I added carrots, potatos, onions and squash. When these were cooked, I added flour to a cup of cold water and stirred it into the pot. A little sea salt and ta daa!!! We had Irish stew. Which was really really good and well received by the household. Except that Xana preferred to eat cucumbers dipped in (organic sugar-free) ketchup, alas.

It was a stress free meal to cook and very satisfying. I got 15 meals from the $10 I spent.

I am continuing the experiment:

1. Today I made a winter vegetable soup using the beef broth I made during this lesson. It's good! I didn't even add any herbs, spices or salt. The small amount of fat formed a plug on top of the mason jar, which I removed. The rest of the broth in the mason jar was a light brown fairly clear gel.

2. Last Wednesday, I stopped by a *gasp* meat shop and bought two packets of deli ends for my house mate and asked the price of soup bones. They said these were free with a purchase and how much did I want? So I got a big bag of beef bones. I enthusiastically threw them in the crock pot. *Oops* I forgot to roast them. The stench became traumatizing! That night I dreamt that I was living in an earthen floored stall and there was a burial mound between my stall and my neighbours. Sticking out of the mound were two rotting human feet ankles and partial calves. The body had been dismembered. In the morning, my housemate noticed the stench and we figured out that I hadn't roasted the bones first! I tried to cook it extra long, but to no avail. The compost got it. I nearly threw up tossing it in! So lesson learned... and I think I have a bit of an ethical struggle with eating meat, don't you think?

Next Wednesday, I'll try again. I can deal consciously with the idea of using animal bones, because these are normally wasted.

But if I keep having these dreams...